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By (Simon Eade)

The Iris genus contains approximately 260–300 species of flowering plants, but the absolute kings of this beautiful group of plants are the bearded Iris. Bearded Iris are not a single species but currently include 35 species and numerous cultivars. As exotic as they appear they are both surprisingly tough and easy to grow.

Bearded irises are are so called because of the hairy tufts displayed at the base of each of the three downward turned sepals.

Hundreds of hybrids exist representing every colour from jet black to sparkling whites. However there is still one colour missing, a truly red, red!

There is no such thing as a typical bearded iris but to try and make sense of the huge number of cultivars they have been split into three groups.

1. DWARF BEARDED IRISES – height 3-10 inches
2. INTERMEDIATE BEARDED IRISES – height 10 – 30 inches
3. TALL BEARDED IRISES – height 30 – 60 inches

All Bearded Iris are fully hardy and require an open sunny position. They will grow well in any good garden soil so long as it is not too acidic, but will do best in neutral soil.

Plant rhizomes in late June and early July, or in early September. The ground should be prepared with well-rotted farm manure, compost and bone meal at a rate of 4 oz per square yard.

Plant the rhizomes facing the same way, in such a position that each rhizome receives the maximum amount of sunshine. Plant firmly but shallowly with the top of the rhizome just showing and do not allow the rhizome to dry out for two to three weeks. Plant the rhizome to deep and you risk it rotting away!

Late planted iris should have the roots well spread out. If by chance they are lifted by frost do not be tempted to push them back down as this will break any newly emerged roots. Instead carely build up a layer of sand or light soil back around the root.

To prevent wind rocking of newly planted iris, as well as excessive transpiration, trim the leave back by half. Taller specimens may need to be cut back further and be staked in place.

Remove any dead leaves by carefully peeing them off the plant and hand weed around the root to prevent damage to the rhizome. You may need to provide shade for the roots during the heat of the day over its first summer. In the winter cur back and remove leaves for neatness and also to reduce the temptation of slugs.

Come the following March fork in a general purpose fertiliser, but one that is not too rich in nitrogen. Dead-head the flowers as they turn.

Source: blogspot/IynqY